Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 13, 2019

Today's Attacks On Ships In The Gulf Of Oman Are Not In Iran's Interest - Or Are They? (Updated)


Early this morning, around 6:00 UTC, two tankers in the Gulf of Oman were attacked by surface weapons. Both ships were some 50 kilometers south-east of Bandar-e Jask, Iran, and some 100+ kilometers east of Fujairah.


The Front Altair, a 250 meter long crude oil tanker under the flag of the Marshal Islands, came from the United Arab Emirates and was on was on its way to Taiwan. Its load of 75,000 tons of naphta caught fire and the crew had to abandon the ship.


The second attacked ship is the Kokuka Courageous, a 170 meter long tanker flagged by Panama. It was coming from Saudi Arabia and on its way to Singapore. The ship has its hull breached above the water line, but its load of methanol seems to be intact.

The Iranian Search and Rescue ship Naji picked up the 44 crews members of both ships and brought them to Bandar-E Jash. Oil prices increased by some 4%.

These attacks come a month after four ships anchoring near the UAE port Fujairah were damaged by explosives attached to their hulls. The investigation of that incident by the UAE did not blame anyone for the attack but suggested that a nation state must have been behind it. U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton blamed Iran.

It is likely that Iranian proxy forces were involved in the May attacks. It seems unlikely that Iran had anything to do with today's attacks.

The May attack was accompanied by two drone strikes launched by Houthi forces in Yemen on the Saudi east-west pipeline that allows some Saudi exports to avoid a passage through the Street of Hormuz. A third strike was a medium range missile launch by the Islamic Jihad in the Gaza strip against the city of Ashkelon in Israel.

All three strikes together were a warning that those countries who instigate for a U.S. war on Iran would get seriously hurt should Iran be attacked.

The attack today comes at an inconvenient time for Iran. The loud anti-Iran campaign John Bolton initiated in April and May recently calmed down.

U.S. President Trump tries to move Iran towards negotiations with him. He recently received the President of Switzerland in the White House. Switzerland is the 'protecting power' that represent U.S. diplomatic interests in Iran. The German Foreign Minister Maas was send to Iran to press for Iranian concessions. Currently the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe is visiting Tehran. He today met Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei but had no success in moving Iran towards negotiations with the Trump.

Even while Iran rejects negotiations with the U.S. as long as the U.S. keeps up its sanctions,  it has no interest in disturbing the current phase of diplomacy. Iran seems to have nothing to win from these attacks.

Is someone else out to nearly literately torpedo the current mediation attempts?

Update (11:30 utc, 7:30 AM blog time):

A few tweets Iran's Supreme Leader issued after his meeting with Prime Minister Abe today hint at a motive Iran might have to conduct something like the attack that happened today: @khamenei_ir - 9:36 UTC - 13 Jun 2019

We do not believe at all that the U.S. is seeking genuine negotiations with Iran; because genuine negotiations would never come from a person like Trump. Genuineness is very rare among U.S. officials.

.@AbeShinzo U.S. president met & talked with you a few days ago, including about Iran. But after returning from Japan, he immediately imposed sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical industry. Is this a message of honesty? Does that show he is willing to hold genuine negotiations?

After the nuclear deal, the first one to immediately breach the JCPOA was Obama; the same person who had requested negotiations with Iran & had sent a mediator. This is our experience, & Mr. Abe, know that we won’t repeat the same experience.

The keyword here is "petrochemical". The tankers hit today were loaded with naphta from the UAE and methanol from Saudi Arabia. Both are petrochemical products and not simply crude oil. Last Friday, June 7, the U.S. sanctioned all trade with Iran's biggest petrochemical producer. These sanction will seriously hurt Iran.

When the Trump administration began to sanction Iran's oil export last year, Iran announced new rules of the game. It said that it would retaliate against other Persian Gulf producers should Iran be unable to export its goods:

Iran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a vital artery for oil shipments from the Middle East. The warning comes in response to the US, which is trying to cut off Iranian crude exports.
Iran's supreme leader's senior adviser for international affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati said his country will retaliate.

“The most transparent, complete and prompt response was given by Mr [Hassan] Rouhani, the Iranian president, in his last trip to Europe. The response was clear: if Iran cannot export oil through the Persian Gulf, no-one will do this,” Velayati said, speaking at the Valdai discussion club in Russia. “Either everyone will export, or no-one,” he added.

Now we can apply the keyword Khamenei used today to these sentences: "if Iran cannot export petrochemical products through the Persian Gulf, no-one will do this". "Either everyone will export, or no-one."

That Iran might have this motive does not mean or prove that it is responsible for today's attack. Risking to sink two foreign tankers in international water is not what an otherwise cautious Iran would typically do. Someone else might have initiated it to blame it.

Still - no matter if Iran was involved - what Khamenei said is a very serious message that Abe, who Trump sent to Iran, will understand and communicate back to the White House.

Posted by b on June 13, 2019 at 9:37 UTC | Permalink

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West Texas Intermediate Crude Oil (WTI) Prices are holding steady over $50, a necessary plateau (I'm told), after dropping previously. . here

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 14 2019 17:53 utc | 301

Here's what one twitter guy says about the "video".


Its not only the fact that footage is B/W and LowRes...its like we were still in the age of #VHS video tapes and this is a copy of a copy of a got the idea by now :))
0 replies 1 retweet 0 likes"

Posted by: arby | Jun 14 2019 18:04 utc | 302

"The owner of the Japanese tanker attacked on Thursday said US reports have provided “false” information about what happened in the Gulf of Oman. "

Posted by: arby | Jun 14 2019 18:09 utc | 303

Don Bacon

The western MSM makes it clear these are claims, which are weakening with time.

That is exactly how propaganda works.
Ask the averagea joe on which nation he thinks attacked the ships.

Posted by: Zanon | Jun 14 2019 18:40 utc | 304

>>>>> Don Bacon | Jun 14, 2019 1:00:27 PM | 299

Doing nothing (masterly inactivity - not really part of the American way) for the moment is probably the best thing Tehran can do at the moment. Barr's investigation of the IC probably needs to run its course to weaken the IC and increased budgets for the Pentagon will get the MIC on board. It's just the fuckwits, Republican and Democratic, in Congress that'll be in the way.

Posted by: Ghost Ship | Jun 14 2019 19:00 utc | 305

"Media operations"; insignificant and cheap, the noise to signal ratio is massive and as long as it's done "right" it can be entirely empty of content because it's only going to be used for future reference by the headline & chosen* make-believe to avoid glancing scrutiny by those already beholden to them and perhaps a few claims of fake news. I guess they fooled me with Venezuela: it seems they had nothing but a total lack of self-respect. In May they might have done something similar against Iran by messing up a ship propeller (although that could easily be bullshit, pictures aren't proof) and it seems like it worked even worse than their nonsense against Venezuela, and now far more likely than anything else by several universes they've tried again.

I'm guessing they're trying to learn how to be subtle yet overt and clear enough to forcibly guide the narrative and events down a narrow path of fantasy where they win… something :)

Almost anyone can swim to a ship and stick something onto it if they're determined (the water is likely to be nasty). Have it match the color and avoiding any detection is almost guaranteed because nobody is looking. Have it do some kind of shaped charge trick from near the waterline (double explosion to force the shock-wave up since water "likes" explosions better than air?) or make it flat and aerodynamic or all of it. The person(s) doing it could believe they were doing it for whatever you fancy and it doesn't matter at all.

Just remember to bring your own snorkel :D

* I meant that as a regular word, not any kind of code.

[I've been away because "life"/existence interfered and it's likely to continue doing so.]

Posted by: Sunny Runny Burger | Jun 14 2019 19:37 utc | 306

James @ 237:

Oh dear ... my links worked originally for me but now they are coming up Error 404!

Try the Wikipedia article on the Gulf of Oman because the first link takes you to a map showing maritime boundaries of the countries in the region.

Posted by: Jen | Jun 14 2019 21:35 utc | 307

The evidence US Navy provides brings some serious questions. Lets say yes, that boat in the video is Iran's. But if they plant the mine don't you think they would come back to collect the unexploded mine right away? not 20 hours later during the BRIGHT day light!? It seems like they also hide this fact from Trump because when he called in his favorite show this morning, Fox and Friends, he said the video is from the middle of the night and iranian were caught because they didn't know they were being recorded AT NIGHT! why nobody is talking about this?

source of the timelines

Posted by: AA | Jun 14 2019 22:40 utc | 308

On what basis do you assume that Iran (or it's proxies) was likely responsible for the May attacks?

Posted by: Furnace | Jun 14 2019 23:20 utc | 309

@Furnace(310): There is nothing, nada, nix, ...! Yes, the Houthies attack the Saudies in some SA south west districts and start some missiles against SA airports and facilities. But the UAE harbours are out of range especially for placing limpet mines! All of the involved ships stayed or came from the UAE. The UAE and SA claim Houthies are the a proxy force of Iran. But SA supports the Hadi regime all over all borders. Promised elections has been cancelled for years. Sounds like a dictatorship! Why does the US forces bomb Yemen and support SA/UAE for a dictatorship? Normally the good guys(we aka Killary, Albright(not so bright), Oskar Fischer, Cem Ö. a.s.o) bomb for human rights only! Smells like double standards or Green Khmer(8=0)! QED! In short, it's a shame!!!

PS: Placing small limpet mines over water line on a tank ship sounds grazy. Looks like a symbolic action! CIA involved? ;-)

Posted by: Wolle | Jun 15 2019 0:16 utc | 310

@317 jen... dh left this note and if you do it to your links it works!

"Just delete the / at the end of the URL. Happens a lot for some reason."

Posted by: james | Jun 15 2019 0:52 utc | 311

FWIW, I did a quick DuckDuckGo search for:

US Sweden submarines 1982

and found a few links -- one or two of them apparently duplicates. But one which is fairly accessible is here:

I'm not knowledgeable in the field, so I can't vouch for it; I'll just put it down here and back away.

Posted by: John Anthony La Pietra | Jun 15 2019 2:09 utc | 312

naphtha or methanol would explode. quite readily. a real "torpedo" or "mine" would at the very least have these boats tilted as in half sunk with hull breaches. above water line? might as well tie it to a pigeon. lol black smoke from molten steel would ignite low weight (high explosive) petroleum distillates/its vapors a lot more readily than cigarettes thrown into petrol liquid. no one smokes in actual fires that doesn't put out itself for a long time as in a ship. its more than just temperature or quantity or length, its the over/under penetration of the shell itself. mythbuster comparisons but that example and the direction of where it was hit are surface evidence.

marine insurance versus fossil fuel tankers differ. a 50k mton "tanker" would be insured by the state's largest banks along with major marine insurers and gold. the "premiums" are not going to go up in the sense a car accident would. the payout from the contracts will be rewritten but these tankers are basically those money trucks for the banks. their insured for all details, since no one member can cover all the risks.

the ships themselves are the real costs and the fact it didn't sink tells you a lot of the motive.

Posted by: jason | Jun 15 2019 2:55 utc | 313

I searched the thread in various ways and did not see the below posted. I haven't read all the comments, so apologies if...

Surely these incidents are connected! This news is from May 14 2019.

Limpet mines suspected in Fujairah attacks quote:

Sources at Fujairah port who yesterday inspected three of the four hit tankers tell Splash the damage done on each vessel looks very much like limpet mines were used, a type of naval mine attached to a target by magnets. All four ships suffered damage to their sterns.

Divers spent much of yesterday assessing the damage on all four ships, which include VLCC Amjad and LR2 Al Marzoqah belonging to Saudi Arabia’s Bahri, the Andrea Victory, a 47,000 dwt tanker operated by Norway’s Champion Tankers and Sharjah-registered bunker tanker A. Michel.

UAE authorities had initially said the ships were “sabotaged” without providing further details.

....American newswire Associated Press (AP) yesterday suggested explosive charges, likely deployed by Iranians, were used to damage the tankers. end quote

Splash is a nautical journal.

Posted by: Noirette | Jun 15 2019 13:39 utc | 314

Just an attempted hijack and then retaliation by missile to end it.Iran will not sell product outside the system.

Posted by: Anonymous | Jun 16 2019 13:25 utc | 315

@Don Bacon #195

"Iran removed a mine from a ship, so that proves that Iran put it there!"

How do we know they were not running that footage backward?

Posted by: ralphieboy | Jun 21 2019 11:39 utc | 316

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